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The CDC updated their recommendations for using opioids to treat pain, removing specific dose and duration targets that pain experts said had caused unintended harm.

The new 2022 Clinical Practice Guideline addresses the following areas: 1) determining whether to initiate opioids for pain, 2) selecting opioids and determining opioid dosages, 3) deciding duration of initial opioid prescription and conducting follow-up, and 4) assessing risk and addressing potential harms of opioid use.

The Clinical Practice Guideline supports the primary prevention pillar of the HHS Overdose Prevention Strategy – supporting the development and promotion of evidence-based treatments to effectively manage pain.

According to the CDC press releaseThe recommendations are voluntary and provide flexibility to clinicians and patients to support individualized, patient-centered care. They should not be used as an inflexible, one-size-fits-all policy or law or applied as a rigid standard of care or to replace clinical judgment about personalized treatment.”

CDC followed a rigorous scientific process using the best available evidence and expert consultation to develop the 2022 Clinical Practice Guideline. An independent federal advisory committee, four peer reviewers, and members of the public reviewed the draft updated guideline, and CDC revised it in response to this feedback to foster a collaborative and transparent process. CDC also engaged with patients with pain, caregivers, and clinicians to gain insights and gather feedback from people directly impacted by the guideline. The expanded guideline aims to ensure equitable access to effective, informed, individualized, and safe pain care.

The new guidance, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reflects the evolution in thinking of how opioids should be used, and the reality of how they are being used.

According to a review of the new Guidelines by Stat News, the original guidelines, issued in 2016, helped further drive down opioid prescribing levels that had been in decline since 2012, as the country grappled with its legacy of overprescribing that contributed to the overdose epidemic.

But critics contended the 2016 guidelines, while helping limit new prescriptions, introduced other harms by leading to unsafe dose reductions for people already on opioids and some long-term patients being cut off from medication they depended on.

The authors of the original guidelines warned in 2019 that their recommendations were being misapplied. And in a commentary also published Thursday, the authors wrote that they revised their recommendations because the original document was improperly cited as a justification for certain policies that restricted opioid access.

Additional materials associated with the guideline are available for patients and clinicians.